Ornette Coleman: Sound Grammar (Sound Grammar)

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Ornette Coleman: Matador
Ornette Coleman: Sound Grammar (Sound Grammar)

The "Buy This Album" link here is to amazon.com because my guess is there are about four copies of this album in stores across New Zealand.

That's a pity -- and disappointing given it won Ornette Coleman a jazz Grammy earlier this year, and at the same time the 76-year old picked up a Lifetime Achievement honour.

Coleman -- only the second jazz musician to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Music incidentally -- has an ill-deserved reputation for making "difficult" music. But his admittedly daunting Free Jazz album came out 47 years ago (!) and in the past decade or so his music has had a joyous bounce to it, or a yearning bluesy quality.

Yes, he still works some unusual melodic changes and his band line-ups aren't quite what you might expect -- for this album he is back to a drummer (his son Denardo) and two bassists while he plays alto, trumpet and violin.

But it's a measure of the consistency of his unique musical vision that here he can go back to 1958 for Turnaround and about 15 years for Song X, yet they fit entirely within the context of his vibrant new tunes. Coleman's music has never been anything less than honest and considered, and often quite beautiful. Sound Grammar, recorded live in Germany in late 2005, is no exception.

But then again, Coleman is exceptional. 

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